The July 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Oakland Youth Organize

Hate Crimes Against the Homeless

Food Bank Helps Ease Hunger

Food Bank Keeps Growing

San Diego's Economic Cleansing

Psychiatric Abuse and Repression

Transit Activists Win Victory

Technology for the Poor

Violent Arrest at City Hall

The Dream of People's Park

New Richmond Shelter to Open

Street Spirit Vendor Tony McNair

Bush's Tax Cuts for the Rich

Corporate Benedict Arnolds

Rain Lane's Photographs

"Say Something" A Short Story

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Poetry of the Streets

"Voila! The Enemy!" Art by Art Hazelwood

by Jonika Mountainfire

It's not the evil that we do,
but the evil we see in others
that we must pay attention to --
Look not upon the devastation
we've spread across our land,
but marvel at the righteousness
upon which our weapons stand!

by Jonika Mountainfire

Our panoply of nuclear weapons represents the continuous possibility of the destruction of life itself. This is an operation of absolute violence, a new metaphysical horizon.
-- M. HARDT & A. NEGRI, Empire

Arms reaching in, arms
reaching out -- a tangle of arms,
like a ball of worms
in your gut --
Arms reaching for truth,
like flowers reaching for the sun --
arms nailed open,
left to hang from a cross --

Arms that could embrace
(that should embrace,
that would embrace!)
but kill, instead --
nuclear arms, our terror
made flesh to dwell among us,
without benefit of the Word --

Bind them open then,
these arms of ours! --
The better to feel
Your invisible, killing arms
as they twist our insides
and poison our days.

by Jonika Mountainfire

Reveal the whole to us, Prometheus, tell us your tale: What guilt does Zeus impute to torture you in shame and bitterness? Teach us, if you may speak!

To speak is pain, but silence too is pain; wretchedness is everywhere.

There are so many words for pain,
for when it's in the body
and when it's in the brain --
for affects of the psyche
and anguish of the soul,
for serotonin gone off kilter
and endorphins that misbehave --
for social dysfunction
and trauma of every kind,
each carefully analyzed and defined
as an aberration of the mind
in the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders --
conditions which neurobiologists
and psycho-pharmacologists
will soon make passe,
with all the new diseases and cures
they promise are on the way.

Perhaps we are tied up
by all these empty words
because when our grandfathers came
home from the battle of the Somme,
or from Midway or Vietnam,
they couldn't tell us who they were then
or what they'd seen and done there --
Perhaps we must endure
these plastic words for pain
because the grandmothers
who held us in their laps --
women who'd been raped
as children, or barely escaped
the ovens of Bergen-Belsen --
couldn't tell us who they were then,
or what they'd seen and done there --
Perhaps we have no words
for so much grief and shame
because we are the children of
a generation who lost their tongues --
who could not bear the presence
or acknowledge the power
of the Uninvited Guest,
who now has
no name.

by Jonika Mountainfire

If you are lucky you will fall
between the cracks,
rejected by one and all
as damaged goods --
If you are lucky you will fall
between the cracks
and learn the tricks
of the underworld crossing,
the long sea-journey, instead --
If you are lucky you will learn
how to root around
between the cracks,
foraging for forbidden visions,
forgotten fragments of other voyages
which parents everywhere
believe have been safely hidden
from greedy little fingers --
If you are lucky the crumbs
you find between the cracks
will be enough to keep
your body and soul together,
through the long famine
which lies ahead.

by Jonika Mountainfire

Forget heroin,
crank and crack cocaine,
the swift wings of Morpheus
and the sweet waters of Oblivion --
Forget the drug police,
the terror police, the mind police
we pay to sweep our streets
and keep our billion-dollar dumpsters
full of human garbage --
Forget the stink of rotting souls
released at midnight
from prison smokestacks,
one silent inmate doing time
for each one of us --
Forget heroin,
crank and crack cocaine --
Fear has always been America's
number-one drug of choice!

The total security
for which we toil day and night
is just a methadone-maintenance
program, a little something
to tide us over until our next fix --
And how long has it been
since the last big one?
Since the last, heart-pounding
rush of pure fear
raced through the bloodstream
of our body politic, waking us up
and bringing us back
to ourselves once again?

More powerful
than endorphins released by love,
terror is a drug to die for
(or better yet, to let others die for) --
Like love, it opens the doors
of perception -- giving us
the second sight of paranoia,
inviting us to reach out and finger
old friends and neighbors
once again

Forget heroin,
crank and crack cocaine,
the swift wings of Morpheus
and the sweet waters of Oblivion --
Fear has always been America's
number-one drug of choice.

by Jonika Mountainfire

Blood is red, electricity white --
electricity is fast and strong, blood
is slow and weak -- and even as we
touch each other at the speed of light
we hemorrhage alone,
blood leaking from our hearts
as steadily and quietly
as snow falling in the night --
The faster we run
the harder we bleed, our blood
seeping down and out of sight,
filling up Earth's secret caves --
and even greedy Gaia must be
getting queasy now, our cold juices
seizing up in her throat --
Because there is too much blood
below and too much electricity above,
the oceans are dying and the sky
has become our enemy --
and if you can bear to feel it,
you will know that Earth herself
is trying to vomit up our pain.
But still we manage not to notice
the sky burning above us,
the oceans dying around us --
skillfully, we swerve around
the bloody sinkholes
opening up beneath our feet
as we cruise down perfect
electronic highways in ever more
powerful information machines --
afraid to look down,
afraid to ask,
Whose blood is this?

The Timeless People
by Husayn Sayfuddiyn

What do you see?
What memories?
In the poor's haggard, time-worn faces
In the wild eyes seeking friendly places
Safe from the demand of dollar bills
that can't be earned
Framed in tentative smiles that still
Mock their hardship's doleful refrain
The vagabonds walk in unmeasured steps
in a circle of desperate hope
Their woeful sighs lost in the errant, timeless night
doomed to haunt the urban jungle's neon nights
Seeking food and shelter and finding blight
The specters of menace in dark, shadowed streets
The timeless walk without rest or sleep
Living without Time to mark the careless hours
In the shadows of the mocking Ivory Towers
Just night and day mark their goalless trek
Their unmarked courses seeking places to rest
Perhaps in a empty lot's rusting wreck
To awake and perhaps hoping not to
Knowing that Time they've hoped to, has an end too.

I Saw Sunshine
by Deirdre Evans

I saw Sunshine
in a Street Spirit photograph
Tears shivered in her
large black eyes
She was being rousted
with a handsome man
The caption said
they were being harassed
while grieving
for a newly dead friend
They were not being given
time to mourn
I saw Sunshine
She looked the same
as she had
so long ago
Twenty five years ago
when she lived with
her husband and son
in Earth People's Park
A commune of artists,
scientists, transients
and those who walked
but were wounded
But Sunshine was always
as bright and joyous
as her name
She always had a smile
and a kind word
for everyone
I saw Sunshine
about ten years ago
at the Ashby Flea Market
She was smiling
as always
A golden glitter
surrounded her head
like a halo glowing
in a medieval painting
Her long black hair
fell down her back
flowed over her shoulders
Tall, slim, a sliver of Joy
in a dim gray world
I saw Sunshine
in a picture
in the Street Spirit
A flashback to a
more optimistic time
She looked the same
She was still smiling
through a mist of tears
I saw Sunshine and
Hope was there
glistening through
sorrow and suffering
I saw Sunshine
still lighting the darkness
with a smile

That Poor Creature
by Holman Monell

That poor creature bedded down
for the night in that doorway there
no place to call home, this the home,
the doorway to nowhere and everywhere
you could know how dreadful life
can sometimes be
how cruel circumstances can be at times
at times like these. What shall we do
we see and do not see, hear and not hear
crimes again (a personal humanity)
are here charged against the race of man
now, have a beer

by Husayn Sayfuddiyn

We the People
Are powerless
Through Privatization
Privatizing Government
Earth, Water, God
Elections, sidewalks, streets
The earth beneath your feet
And We the People
Become Dispossessed Tenants,
Excluded Second Class
Vagrants, Loiterers
Trespassers on private property
Pay as you go
To get then blow then
Go to Jail for Free
But not to the private hospital
We the People have lost the We
Our We has been Privatized
in the privatized domain
of multinational stockholders and
Usurious Bonds of Slavery
Hocked Futures-IOU a drudgery's life
and Death's the Midwife
of We the People
To be heard We must
demonstrate, parade, self-immolate
to deaf and blind misfortune tellersÉ
because our voice has been
privatized too.
They have privatized the We in You

Half Mast
by Ralph Dranow

St. Anthony's Dining Room,
Yellow walls adorned with
Potted plants,
Murals of beaches, lakes, meadows.
A short, scrawny black man
With a twisted face
Sits down opposite me.
He peels open his shirt,
Gingerly fingering a bloody wound
On his right bicep,
Then stares at a long white scar
Across his stomach.
My breath is ragged.
"What happened?"
"Bullet wounds," he mumbles.
After a pause,
"Who shot you?"
"I was in the way."
Like he's telling me the time,
Face blank.
"When I was in the hospital,
The guy sent me a card
Thanking me for not telling."
I shake my head.
"That's pretty cold."
"Yeah, it is. The doctor
said, 'One inch deeper,' "
He points to his stomach,
"And I'd be dead."
He sighs, eyes fluttering shut,
Head drooping.
After a minute, I wake him up,
Tell him his food is getting cold.
He nods,
Takes a bite of mashed potato
and meat loaf casserole,
Then his head sinks again,
A flag at half mast.

Our People Will Be Free
by Gerardo Gomez

It's the revolution
tht is bringing you shit
that you wouldn't get on CNN.

ABC nor NBC wants to broadcast
this shit we call poverty,
flooding the streets of my city
with misery
and not respecting our dignity,
so don't be surprised when all you see
is innocent casualties
little children dying tragically
bodies disappearing randomly
people afraid to go outside
cuz they never been free.

So, this is our calamity and
the struggle we fight
so passionately
hoping one day our people
will be free
and end this sick catastrophe.

by Joan Clair

There's a new landmark in our city,
close to a church and a statue of Mary:
a shopping cart full of cans
and what else I haven't discovered;
most of the contents are covered.

Unlike other landmarks, this one,
which has been there for weeks,
has no markings on it;
does not identify or give details
about the person whose life it commemorates.
We do not know if he or she was taken away,
gave up, lost his or her life, or disappeared.

But the cart remains,
a testament of this one life,
far more symbolic than
a can of Andy Warhol's affluent tomato soup.

Maybe the cart should be moved to a museum,
or auctioned.

by Joan Clair

At least the nests are left alone,
abandoned homes in the bare trees.
When the birds left, they did go free.
No money-making prospects here.
No "for rent" signs appear
for birds who need
a nest in which to rest and feed.
And no citation caused the flight
of birds from their nests late at night.
No "neighbors" calling the police,
forcing them to wake from sleep.
No one sounded an alarm
to move them on or bring them harm.
No officers patrolled their trees.

Street Findings in Gray
by Claire J. Baker

Pigeons peck the crumbs
Gray Woman throws --
feathered rainbows
at her feet.

Among little left
it's touching how
Gray Man's boots
bend up at the toes.

A Gray High Rise
dripping tears
in the Gray Gray rain.

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

E-mail: Spirit

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Published by American Friends Service Committee

Editor : Terry Messman

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